Time for Change…

The quandary with being mid-life is that you’ve lived a lot of years but also you (hopefully) have a lot of years ahead of you.  You also realize though that you don’t have your entire life in front of you either and that your days must start counting for more.  I think this is sometimes called a mid-life crisis but I think for most people it’s just a time to really stop and check the path they are on.  Stop running on autopilot, step back and say, is this the life I want? Is this what I should be spending my precious time doing?  It’s a self-check moreso usually than a crisis.  I have yet to want to buy a sports car, get a really young husband and well, I guess the female version to the combover is to dress and try to look like a teenager to the point you look ridiculous.  I think a lot of older women are not accepting looking like little old ladies and that’s great but you have to do it with finesse and style, not copy your 16-year old daughter.  

Yesterday, a young girl in our community died days after her attempt at suicide.  Thousands of people had been praying for her and her family but it was not enough to bring upon a miracle.  This girl is part of my family doctor’s family, his two older sons graduated with my daughters and since he’s been my doctor for ages, his kids essentially grew up with mine.  Not that we were close, they didn’t invite me over for dinner but in a small community like ours, everyone knows everything and you interact through many different channels.  

I can remember her as a baby, toddler, young girl and a teenager.  She was a beautiful sweet girl with seemingly everything a girl could want at least from the outside but yet this tragedy occurred.  Of course the rumor mill is running rampant with why she may have done it, but the only person that truly knows is gone.  People will judge her parents and make assumptions but the real truth is, this could happen in anyone’s family.   So sit down and focus on what is your life.  Say a prayer of peace and comfort for the family instead of stirring up the gossip. 

Suicide is the one thing, unless you’ve been on the verge of committing it yourself, it’s easy to stand there and say “how could she do this?” Essentially for many different reasons, you come to a point where everything feels hopeless and you feel the only way out, the only way for peace is death.  This could be from a mental cause such as depression, chemical imbalance in your brain, drugs (both prescription and illegal) and so on.  The Cherokee Indians had a saying that roughly was “Do not judge a man without walking in his moccasins” or the more modern “walk a mile in his/her shoes”.  Have some empathy, don’t just stand there and judge.  Try to see what it might have been from someone’s view. 

In my mid 30’s, I had a bought of depression so bad that I would wake up and then curse the fact I hadn’t died in my sleep.  It scared me enough to get treatment which was prescribed by this very Doctor.  He gave me Zoloft and finally that urge to die subsided.  It’s not always “just in your head”, mental illness many times is physiological and not just psychological.    You can’t “snap out of” depression.  It’s like telling someone with a broken leg to just think positive and it will heal.  Yeah it may heal but maybe not heal right. You may walk with a limp the rest of your life because it needed set.  You get the idea.

On the news yesterday that this girl passed away, I was sitting there thinking about my life.  Yesterday was also the two-year anniversary of my mom’s death.  I was feeling reflective anyway but this tragic news pushed me even deeper into thought.  The last few years especially, I have had time to work on myself, things that happened to me years ago and their effect on me today was forefront in my life.  If you read my blog consistently, you know I’ve talked about self-esteem issues, body image, mid-life, grief and a whole host of topics that are relevant to me as well as many other people’s lives.  The greatest complement I have received from my writing is when someone thanks me for being candid enough to write about a hard subject because they feel less alone and I’ve helped them in some small way. 

The thing about death is that it reminds you to live.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years working out my grief, working out issues from years ago because I either pushed it down or I simply didn’t have time for myself.  This is the first time in my life since I was a teenager that I have been able to really focus on myself because I was no longer actively taking care of someone else.  Having all this time to think was both good and bad.  Just the other day I wrote something about a traumatic experience that happened when I was 14.  It was one of those times where I started writing it in my head first and I needed to get it down on “paper”.  When I told a friend about it, they said why do you keep reliving this stuff?  Me being me, I was annoyed at first with what they said.  I am a stubborn learner at time and yesterday it finally clicked with me what they were trying to tell me.  

Yes I could use my traumatic experience to reach others and help someone else but by doing so, I was keeping the past in the present.   The beauty of youth is you don’t have years of the past to ruminate on.  You live each day looking to just that day and sometimes toward the future.  I try to be mindful of each day and live in the present but I tend to be all over the board.  I have no clue what I want in my future to be other than a happy, healthy family, be able to live comfortably, finish my degree and publish a book.  I don’t have the fiery, motivated goals of my youth and sometimes that bothers me.  I have no idea why, maybe because I feel like I am not “doing enough”.  It seems even more imperative now at the age of 46 that I should be “reaching for some big dream” before it’s too late.  

As I sat there alone thinking about my mom and this young girl’s life being cut too short, I realized I need to live for today and stop worrying so much about the future or achieving some great thing.  I simply need to follow my heart and stop worrying so damned much.  I need to let go of the past, I have worked hard to get where I am today and be the person I’ve become.  I’m proud of the person I am today even if I’m not always proud of my past life.  I’ve made many mistakes, my life was a train wreck when I was younger but so what?  As the 1000 memes going around social media say,  you get a new start every day or something to that effect.  Really all I need is a change in focus and attitude.  It’s that simple. 

In the effort to live each day to the fullest and live in the present, I’ve decided to suspend my blog for the time being.  I need some time to refocus myself and just live my life by embracing each day as a new opportunity.  Focus on spending time with the people that I love the most and make me the happiest rather than putting energy into those relationships that do not add much if anything to my life.  I am going to let go of the “should of’s” as well.  I should do this, be this or achieve this.  This is a lot of white noise that confuses me and makes it difficult for me to enjoy life.  In essence, I’m going to hit the “reset” button and start new again.   Maybe I will pick up my blog again with a different goal in my writing.  We will see.  

Go live for today, do what makes you happy and don’t look back.  Find your passion, take a chance and live your dreams.  There is never going to be the perfect day for it, do it today, start today.  Live for today, you have no guarantee there is a tomorrow.  Be prepared to fail and hear “no” many times over, but don’t give up.  The one difference between the people who achieve their dreams and the ones who don’t is usually the fact they didn’t give up and not because they nailed it right from the start.  

So in conclusion, this blog has been a wonderful journey which forced me to get myself and my writing out in the public eye.  I am grateful to all that have read it, who have commented on it and who might miss it just a little bit.  I am going to focus on my dream of publishing a novel.  Wish me luck!  Or better yet, wish me tenacity to stick it out and get over or around all the challenges I will face (mostly being too self-critical of my writing – ha…).  Deep breath and first steps…

Are You Settling in Life?

Sometimes out of the blue usually when I’m hiking, biking or even driving a thought or word will pop into my head and stick there like glue until I take the time to figure out why this has suddenly become part of my consciousness. The other day, I was driving home from shopping and I had the radio off which sometimes I do just for the quiet when a particular word came out of nowhere and struck me. Settled.

I started thinking of a commercial I saw recently where this family of “settlers” were out plowing their land except their land was a suburban home plot. The neighbors were set in the modern-day,  driving cars while the father was plowing up his land in old pioneer garments.  The pun of the commercial was why “settle” for cable when you can get satellite tv or something of the sort.  I can’t remember the company off-hand but I thought the commercial was cleverly comical.  The father states to his son “We’re settlers.”  But not in the traditional way, just in the manner that they settle for less in life and do things the hard way rather than reach out and take advantage of what is offered around them.

How many of us settle for good enough? Have you ever thought about it?  You look at people like Donald Trump and they feel they are entitled to the very best.  To me that type of attitude is strange and self-serving.  But, I considered, do I settle for less when I could reach for more?  Yes, actually I have most of my life.  A good example is my first and second husbands.  Settled for relationships that I wasn’t truly happy in but seemed “good enough”.   Not that I even wanted to get married either time, it was the result of each one of them pushing and pushing me until I finally gave in and agreed to get married.  Another time when my gut instincts were screaming “NO!” and I reasoned my way into unhappy marital unions.  Stupid, really stupid.  What if I had set my limits and said, no you’re not good enough to be my husband?  My life would have been a lot different as my current marriage has proved.

In my younger years I settled for friends who didn’t have my best interests at heart just to have more friends and seem part of the crowd. I imagine we all do that but I think of the time and heartache I could have saved myself over the years.  I settled for a life path that wasn’t really what I wanted.  When my mom shot down my desire to attend the vocational school for floral design because my ultimate goal was to eventually go to college for business and horticulture, I let go of my dream to own a floral shop/plant nursery.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and when I look back now, I think, well she didn’t have control over what I did in college, why didn’t I go?  Because I settled for the path of least resistance.  I went to school for medical assisting because at the time it was the up and coming career and paid fairly well for limited schooling.  My plan was once I finished my Medical Assisting degree, I would transfer to a four-year college in Dayton to finish my education.

Except I let my plans become derailed when I met my future husband #1. I settled for allowing his goals and plans to overshadow mine and I didn’t follow through on my education until later in life when it was much tougher.  Once children became involved in my life, my life became about supporting and raising them so little of it had to do with my goals and dreams. My life plan certainly wasn’t what I expected but I made the best of it and I have three amazing and successful daughters.

Settling isn’t always about major items in your life, it can be simple things like what clothes you buy, what food you eat, or whether or not you treat yourself well.  Maybe you need a nap or a long bath or you just don’t feel like cooking dinner that night.  Maybe it is asking for help, like I have while I finish my last semester of college.  I’ve recruited my daughters to help with household cleaning chores that I normally do so it takes some pressure off of me.  

So you’ve settled in life, now what?  First make sure you actually settled.  Sometimes we get ideas in our head based on what others are doing in life, peer pressure so to speak or what we see in media and television.  If you’ve determined you have aspects of your life that you have settled in, then make a list of those things and brainstorm how you might take steps to remedy the situation.  

For example, my youthful goal of owning my own floral/nursery business no longer applies today but maybe I could look at other options of entrepreneurship that may fulfill my desire to be more independent, my own boss.  This could be as simple as starting a small side business to complement my current work hours or maybe at some point down the road, I may get inspired to take on my own business again in a full-fledged way.  Or maybe I focus on finally writing that best-selling novel.  The point is to start today, start noting the ways you settle and find ways to make your life better.  After all this is the only life you have.  

The key is, don’t stay mired in the past or regret.  Move ahead.  Make your own happiness.  

 

Chasing Ghosts…

I hate moving.  I really, really hate moving and in fact I haven’t moved for fifteen years.  As a kid, my parents moved us every few years, my father in chase of the next big thing certain that life would be better here or there.  However, moving did not prove to be the magic bullet to overcome my father’s demons and alcoholism.  Then I married and my first husband was much like my father leading us to move nine times in seven years.  When I finally bought my current house in 2000, I was done with moving.  So done in fact that when my current husband brought up moving out of town, I was adamantly against it.  I had moved enough.

Moving would cost us so much more money, a bigger house payment, we would have to sell our current home that still needed some work to make it more marketable.  Plus there are all these years of accumulating things.  My attic, basement and house are stuffed full of just general buying shit, inheriting more shit and just plain hoarding things I think I may use one day.  As soon as we started looking at homes, we started the process of cleaning out the house.  We are now on a first name basis with the volunteers at the mercy mission and they are always grateful for everything we give which makes me feel good.

The other morning, I was up early as my husband goes to work at 0530 on his day shifts and I could not go back to sleep.  I got something in my head where I needed a tape measure except they were all in the garage which is at the end of our lot and not attached to the house.  So I slipped on some flip flops and slipped out into the dark cool morning to retrieve the tool.  There was a quarter of a moon in the west sky and the faint light of the courthouse clock below the moon.  I stood there for a moment and was overtaken by memories of my life as it has passed since I moved into this house.

I married, divorced and remarried while living under its roof.  For eight years I raised my two step-children full-time.  My girls finished growing up here.  Three high school graduations, one college graduation, numerous proms and homecomings.  A swingset that evolved into a firepit area.  Trees that have matured where there had been few when I moved in.  Egg hunts, barbeques, decorating for Christmas, all the plants I bought with my mom or she bought for me as well as hundreds of hours and dollars spent in my gardens.  A messy divorce, a home break in and many years of a bad marriage that finally ended in 2008.  I stood there next to the lamppost with the autumn clematis from my mom’s yard snaking up the black metal pole nearly ready to bloom its white star flowers and felt the ghosts of my former life dancing around me.

Chilled, I forced myself out of paralysis and into the garage, snatched the tape measure and all but ran back into the house, turning on the alarm behind me as if it was a protection against the past.  My life has changed drastically in fifteen years and stayed much the same as well.  I am on the cusp of a new chapter of my life, the one they call the empty nest (though I hate that term).  My second act which is how I prefer to see middle-age.  Everything is changing and as I snuggled back under my blankets for a moment before the alarm would remind me I ned to get ready for work, I was grateful that my husband pushed to move.

One of his main points for wanting to move was there were too many memories in our house, most were good but for me, since he had only lived there seven of the fifteen years, he knew I had a bad marriage and that still hung over the house.  After losing my mom, I was holding onto everything familiar and safe so he had his work cut out for him.  But he was right, we need a new, fresh start.  A place where this next chapter of our life can unfold.  Our closest neighbors are 0.20 miles (I know because I measured it with my truck odometer) to either side with no one behind or across from us.  At least for now.  The sky is open and we can watch the sunrises and sunsets from our back yard.  No more peering between houses or building to watch the sun go down.  It is quiet and peaceful.  Healing I think.

I have no idea what the next chapter of my life will bring.  I plan on when things settle down to start writing more seriously, exploring entrepreneur ideas for side businesses as I always loved working for myself.  Find more ways to show love.  Or just read a book curled up in my recliner while overlooking the quiet fields.  We can start new family traditions, have more space, the kids have room to entertain their friends or boyfriends without all of us having to be on top of each other.  Maybe I will find a quiet nook to write.

Sometimes we have a tendency to burrow into what is comfortable because leaving is too much work.  It’s easier to stay put, stay where we are.  But I am glad my husband pulled me, albeit kicking and screaming, out of my quiet safe burrow.  I needed to be out in the light again, pursue a dream that I had many years ago of owning a colonial home out in the country.  Reminded me that we can own nice things, not that my current house isn’t nice but we really needed more space for years.  I was too afraid of going into to debt to take the risk of owning my “dream” home.  But then I also remembered thinking when my mom was dying, why didn’t she spend some of this money she had saved and saved?  You definitely can’t take it with you.  

So I took the leap of faith that my financial world won’t come crumbling down around me with a bigger house payment and signed the papers for a new house.  I think sometimes we reach points in our life where we need a big change to shake things up, to get us cleaning out the clutter and in a way banishing the old ghosts of our former life.  Ghosts that chase you down the sidewalk early in the morning in the moonlight, the ones you push back into your subconscious as you try and forget.   Or you can be bold and take a new step, start a new chapter, move into a new house, start a new career, whatever it is that speaks to you personally.  

Change isn’t always bad.  Sometimes it’s just, well, necessary.  You come to a fork in the river and you pick a new direction. Here’s to moving… God help me, I own a lot of shit!